Should “stakeholders” sue Bloomberg to prove 2nd casino licence claim for Johor’s Forest City is “sheer slander”?

PITTED against the backdrop of the Kuala Kubu Baharu’s (KKB) by-election in a fortnight’s time (May 11), a war of words has erupted between PAS information chief Ahmad Fadhli Shaari and a pro-Pakatan Harapan (PH) influencer after the former reminded the unity government against naming the purported second casino project as the “Madani Casino”.

“PMX (Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) has denied. Berjaya has denied. The Johor state government has denied. A devil’s advocate indeed @FadhliShaari,” berated Najib Bakar (@najib_bakar) on the X platform.

“As the by-election campaign season looms, he has started to play the devil again. Just take off the kepiah (Muslim prayer cap) and the robe. Shame on you.”

For context, Anwar had on Thursday (April 25) denied the existence of plans to open a casino in Johor’s Forest City, rubbishing an earlier report by business news wire Bloomberg as “not true” and “a lie”.

The report claimed that Anwar who is also the Finance Minister has met Berjaya Group founder Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun and Genting Group’s head honcho Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay on the previous week to discuss the matter.

On the following day (April 26), Berjaya Corp Bhd also denied the said Bloomberg report which claimed that the group’s patriarch was involved in talks with Anwar on opening a casino in Forest City.

The conglomerate further claimed that the report by Bloomberg which was also carried by The Edge Singapore contained inaccurate information that misrepresented the company’s involvement in its talks with Anwar concerning Forest City.

Yesterday (April 27), Genting Malaysia Bhd also rejected a news report claiming it was involved in talks relating to the opening of a second casino in Johor.

“Genting Malaysia Bhd wishes to state that neither the company nor TS Lim was involved in any such discussions or meetings and the claims made are untrue,” the media statement by the country’s premier casino operator read. “Genting will not hesitate to take action deemed necessary to protect its interests and stakeholders.”

In his defence, Ahmad Fadhli who is also the Pasir Mas MP argued that he was only quoting what was reported by Bloomberg (which Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli happened to refer to) and Malaysiakini was the first local news agency to quote it.

“If it is not right, the government has the power to manage it from a legal point of view,” he responded in a Facebook post.

“And if it’s true, I just remind you not to call it Madani Casino,” he further teased, alluding to the fact that Anwar has previously defamed Perikatan Nasional (PN) by insisting that he has evidence of the PN administration receiving political funding from gambling sources during the tenure of eighth premier Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

As the polemic rages on, Anwar has stated that there will be a response from stakeholders to the recent Bloomberg report that the government is mulling a second casino in Johor’s Forest City.

“Those who are mentioned must take the necessary action. They will (take action),” he told the media after the launch of the Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) Academy and groundbreaking ceremony for the Flight Simulator Building in Sepang on Friday (April 26).

Anwar had been asked if the government would request a retraction from Bloomberg or proceed with legal action against the New York-based news agency.

As it is the four “stakeholders” mentioned in the Bloomberg article are Anwar (head of the Malaysian government), Vincent Tan, Lim Kok Thay and His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim King of Malaysia.

Aside from Anwar, Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi has similarly denied that there has been plans to open or operate any casinos in the state.

He described the news as merely a rumour intended to sabotage and to maliciously tarnish the image of Forest City and the state of Johor as a whole.

Onn Hafiz who is also the UMNO Machap state assemblyman further reiterated that the Johor state government is confident that Forest City will be revitalised and its economic activities will flourish with the development of the Special Financial Zone (SFZ) and the Johor-Singapore Special Economic Zone (JS-SEZ).

As suggested by former DAP three-term Subang/Sungai Buloh MP and prominent lawyer Sivarasa Rasiah, the issue can be easily handled.

“Not a difficult problem. The Communications Ministry can write to Bloomberg to publish a corrective article with equal prominence.  Berjaya’s response should similarly be published,” he tweeted in response to Anwar’s call for action against the Bloomberg report. – April 28, 2024

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